Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

2010 weather in Saskatchewan and Canada – and some thoughts on global climate

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Late in 2010 Environment Canada issued its annual Canada’s Top Ten Weather Stories, and Saskatchewan is featured in two of the stories. Garnering 1/5 of the country’s weather stories is not bad for a province with about 1/35th of the country’s population.

The Saskatchewan stories are:

#3. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies; and

# 6. Saskatchewan’s Summer of Storms.

I live in Saskatchewan, and I can verify that where I live had a cool and wet summer.  In fact I have had discussions with a couple of people this year who used that fact to argue that global warming is a hoax.  So why do I continue to agree with the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) view?  I guess it’s because I recognize the fact that although Saskatchewan is relatively big,  it’s a small fraction of the planet’s surface.  In fact I have no problem believing Environment Canada when they state in the article that, “In 63 years of weather reporting, 2010 was the nation’s warmest ever with milder weather throughout the year. It featured the warmest winter and spring ever, the third warmest summer and the second warmest fall.”

Environment Canada has some really neat graphics if one digs around their website for them.  Like this one showing Winter 2009/2010 (warmest on record):

Winter temperature anomalies - Saskatchewan was the cool spot

And then there’s this graphic of Spring 2010 (warmest on record):

And this graphic of Summer 2010 (3rd warmest on record):

And this graphic showing Autumn 2010 (2nd warmest on record):

All four of those temperature anomaly maps show that although most of Canada, and especially the far north, was much warmer than normal, the southern half of Saskatchewan tended to be slightly below average.  This kind of information helps me to understand the difference between annual temperatures at a provincial vs. national scale.

And of course Canada comprises a relatively small proportion of the globe, so it isn’t safe to infer that just because Environment Canada informs us that our nation had the warmest year on record means that 2010 was the warmest year on record globally.  It will probably take the climatologists awhile to analyze the global data, but I am interested in seeing the results.  Who knows, perhaps the analysis might provide support to the theory that the globe is cooling – it must be, after all New York City had a big snowfall.

A stable and unobtrusive OS from Microsoft – dare I hope?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Windows 7 was rolled out a few days ago, and I’ve been hearing some good things about it, such as:

What if a new version of Windows didn’t try to dazzle you? What if, instead, it tried to disappear except when you needed it? Such an operating system would dispense with glitzy effects in favor of low-key, useful new features. Rather than pelting you with alerts, warnings, and requests, it would try to stay out of your face. And if any bundled applications weren’t essential, it would dump ‘em.

It’s not a what-if scenario. Windows 7, set to arrive on new PCs and as a shrinkwrapped upgrade on October 22, has a minimalist feel and attempts to fix an­­noyances old and new. …

(Harry McCracken, PC World)

I’m one of the many PC users who resisted Windows Millenium before upgrading  from Win 98 to Win XP, and have likewise given Win Vista a pass.   If it’s true that Windows 7 stays out of the user’s face (yes I realize I have unused icons on my desktop – let me worry about that) and lets the applications do their thing, and if it’s true that it’s more stable than previous versions, I’m allowing myself to move from cynical to cautiously optimistic.

Must have been quite a party

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I noticed that one of the speakers in our sound system was sounding terrible, so I pulled off the speaker grille, and here is what I found.

Blown woofer

I don’t know how loud the system must have been cranked to blow a woofer like that.  I’m not aware of any loud parties at our place when the kids were home alone – no complaints from the neighbours, no police reports, etc.

Oh well, I got more than 30 years out of those speakers, and they were never spectacular performers anyway.

I’ve replaced them with a set of bookshelf speakers – a lot smaller but with better sound.  I don’t know what I’ll do with these old-school monsters.

Speaker with blown woofer

Brother Ansgar’s technical support call

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Once again it’s been a long time between blog posts.  And again it’s mostly due to lack of motivation.  However I can also blame my preoccupation with my computer problems.  Actually since my kids use it more than I do, I shouldn’t even call it “my computer”.

The hard drive has been at near capacity for awhile.  I deleted files, I compressed files, I nagged the kids to get rid of un-needed files, but it didn’t take long till it was full again.

I considered buying an external hard drive, but decided to instead replace the internal drive, thinking I’d replace the existing drive rather than add a second drive.  I found a sale on a 500 GB drive.  That’s when the fun began.  A virus scan found some Trojan Horses in some files one of my bad kids had copied to the HDD.  Then I had problems with the backup.  Then after physically installing the drive I discovered that I couldn’t boot from my CD-ROM or from my DVD drive.  Then I tried making a bootable diskette but it had been so long since I’d used the diskette drive that it was packed with dust – it looked like felt.  After cleaning it out I still couldn’t make it work.  I eventually just installed the HDD as a second drive.

At one time I considered myself fairly computer savvy but no longer.

Anyway I still need to do some moving of user profiles etc. but that can wait.  So I’m sneaking in a blog post before driving to Saskatoon to pick up Jennifer at the airport.  She’s returning from an educational trip to Québec with her class.  We should be back in P.A. around 2:00 a.m.  Fun times.

Satellite sky

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Why do I lie awake at night
and think back just as far as I can
To the sound of my father’s laugh outdoors
To the thought of Sputnik in free-flight?

Before I could fashion my poverty
Before I distrusted the night
I must’ve known something
I must’ve known something
Those were the times I live for tonight

Why, why, why, I say Why, Mama, Why?
Why can’t I sleep in peace tonight
underneath the satellite sky?

It can’t be easy for my children
I’m hollow before my time
It looks like a desert here to me
Where is the promise of youth for my child?

Where are the faraway kingdoms of dreams?
We’ve been to the moon and there’s trouble at home
They vanished in the mist with Saint Nicholas
They lie scattered to the ghettos and the war zones

Why, Why, Why, I say Why, Mama, Why?
Why can’t I sleep in peace tonight
underneath the satellite sky?

I want to stand out in the middle of the street
and listen to the stars
I want to hear their sweet voices
I want to feel a big bang rattle my bones
I want to laugh for my children
I want the spark to ignite
before they find out what it means
to be born into these times

Why, Why, Why, I say Why, Mama, Why?
Why can’t I sleep in peace tonight
underneath the satellite sky?

Mark Heard © 1992

Gopher control with the Bun-Vac 6000

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

The farmers in Saskatchewan are once again grappling with how best to control the gophers (more correctly known as Richardson’s ground squirrels) that are over-running their croplands. Not many people, including myself, are entirely happy with even a temporary relaxation of the rules on using the pesticide Strychnine. Shooting gophers could make a difference, but there aren’t enough shooters in Saskatchewan to make a dent in the gopher population. Apparently there is a device on the market called the Rodenator that is considered a humane way to kill the varmints, basically by blowing them up by igniting a mixture of oxygen and propane in their tunnels.

Apparently $380,000 has been committed by the provincial Agriculture ministry to research the problem.

For the National Post story click here.

Perhaps the most fascinating solution mentioned in that article was proposed by an animal-rights activist from B.C.

“There are vacuums that can suck them out of their holes without harming them, and you could set aside some Crown land or farmers’ land for gophers to use,” she said. “Then you could use vegetation they prefer, or radio frequencies to keep them on that land.”

I can’t help but wonder whether she’s thinking of the Bun-Vac 6000, featured in that documentary Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit …

Fire extinguisher training – as much fun as Nintendo Wii

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

I spent most of yesterday in a compulsory safety training session. Part of the course included hands-on fire extinguisher use. However instead of using a real fire, we used a fire simulator. With the appropriate name “PyroSoft“, the system included a large rear-projection screen, with modified fire extinguishers that point a beam of light at the movie playing on the screen, and compressed air providing authentic sound.

Poor technique, such as directing the propellant at the middle of the flames instead of the base, or not sweeping fully to the sides of the burn area, result in “re-flash”, and a poor time.

So how did I do? Let’s just say that for some reason I was able to put out the “cabinet fire” a lot faster than the fire burning in a pool of gasoline. Based on my time, no fire department would hire me. No career change for me.

However it was kind of fun.

A Beacon of … creepiness?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

It’s now been about a month since I got my Facebook account, and I still feel ambivalent about the experience. It’s been fun connecting with some people I haven’t connected with lately. However I am a bit concerned about the potential for too much personal/confidential information getting shared with not only Facebook “friends” but with the world.

However what really strikes me as creepy is the newly announced Facebook Beacon. If I understand it correctly, it’s an advertising scheme that will allow Facebook users to add companies to their “friends” list. Subsequently the user’s activities with that “company friend” will be shared on Facebook. For example if I add Blockbuster to my friends list, and then rent Earnest Goes to Jail, the Facebook community may see that choice as being representative of my movie taste (well maybe it is representative, but not everyone needs to know that).

If that loss of privacy is the price I need to pay for a free service, don’t expect me to stick around Facebook.

I think the title of this Globe and Mail article, “Creepy genius Facebook Beacon” is appropriate.

Facebook and me – a beginning and an uncertain future

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

I’ve been hearing about this phenomenon called Facebook, and my kids are into it, so I decided to check it out. Upon creating an account, I was prompted by the system to join the Saskatoon network. Saskatoon? That’s 150 km away from Prince Albert. Anyway, apparently there isn’t a P.A. network, so I joined the Saskatoon network.

Once safely ensconced in Facebook, I tried typing “Prince Albert” into a search box, and was offered the opportunity to join a group (I don’t remember the term used) interested in Carlton High School, St. Mary’s High School, Ecole Valoies High School, etc. I didn’t see any groups for middle-aged guys interested in family, church and hunting, so I decided to log off.

That was a couple of days ago. I guess I should sign back on and try to find out what it means to “poke” someone on Facebook.